The Tornoe Spin: The Chip Flowers Clown Show rolls on

Rob Tornoe weighs in on the latest controversy that has State Treasurer Chip Flowers’ Republican opponents calling for him to resign.

Back in January, I drew the above cartoon of Delaware State Treasurer Chip Flowers as a clown, trying to do the job he was elected to do while the crowd simply laughed in his face. 

Fast forward half a year, and it seems that the clown show, barreling towards a primary in about a month, shows no sign of abating. 

In two separate police reports, Erika Benner, his former Deputy Treasurer, accused Flowers of threatening to shoot her son. 

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“Tell him to come to my house,” Flowers allegedly texted to Benner on July 4. “I picked up something from cabelas last week that should ude (sic) just fine. Tell him I’m begging him. He fu—- with the wrong ni—.” 

Flowers claims to have possession of a video of the incident, which he says clearly shows Benner’s imposing son acting aggressively. According to Flowers, Benner’s son approached his car during Dover’s Fourth of July parade, gave Flowers the middle finger, hit the windshield and called him a ni—.

But has he released the video? No. Does he plan to? Maybe. Will it matter? Certainly not.  

Last time I checked, Flowers is a public official. He’s also an adult, and he surely knows he’s under an intense spotlight due to the actions that have transpired during his administration.

If, as he has claimed, Benner is waging a war of resentment against her firing, he has to know that unleashing a tirade (in text) against the very person he blames for his downfall is, at best, a poor career choice. 

Collateral damage

Flowers blames Benner for trying to ruin his political career, noting that she used a state-issued credit card for personal items while working in the controller general’s office, a fact he claims the administration didn’t want released.

According to Flowers, Benner feels she was collateral damage in a fight between Flowers and the Markell administration, and she is now waging a war against him and his chances of becoming governor someday. 

Ordinarily, I’d say this all sounds a bit paranoid, but he has released some evidence that, if true, demonstrates Benner has been acting in a less-than-stable manner. 

For instance, a series of text messages seem to show Benner texting him even as she notified authorities she told him to stop contacting her due to his “erratic, threatening behavior.” She denies sending those messages. 

There is also a bizarre email, again purportedly from Benner, apologizing to Flowers’ fiancé for being in possession of his iPad. Flowers thinks she stole it on purpose to gain access to personal information, which included emails, bank accounts and “compromising pictures” of his fiancé.

So it’s official, the office of the state treasurer, possibly the most boring job residents have to elect someone to do, has become a bad soap opera, complete with the leading man offering to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence. 

Maybe Chip’s telling the truth, and there’s an unstable former employee trying to take him down. But this “everyone’s against me theme” has become a boring, tiring pattern throughout Chip’s brief tenure in public office. 

The boring, tiring pattern

He was innocent back in 2010, when he addressed rumors about two women in his past who accused him of physical abuse. In both instances, Flowers was exonerated in cases that did little except reveal Chip’s unstable past when it comes to romance. 

He was innocent in September of 2013, when he blamed the News Journal and others for accusing him of wrongdoing, when all the blame should have been directed at his deputy assistant. Let’s forget he played the “approved-disapproved” game when it came to Benner’s charges and blamed the Dept. of Finance for it. 

He was innocent in October of 2013, when he denied taking a sightseeing tour of Denali while attending a conference in Alaska, despite posting photos of himself on Facebook… in Denali. 

He even did it in May, accusing the Markell administration of spreading “lies” to score political points after I tweeted an innocent joke that Flowers was angry his opponent was getting free Memorial Day airtime on MSNBC. 

And he did so today, telling me that he has evidence which completely exonerates him of any wrongdoing while exposing Benner’s actions as a conspiracy against his political career.

Uncharacteristically, however, he seemed tired of the accusations and tired of having to defend himself, even as he vigorously did so.  

At this point, I truly feel bad for Flowers, someone whose public buffoonery undermines his feverish political ambition. I don’t know if he’s actually done anything wrong other than jump into a political pool that’s way over his head. 

It’s also sad when practically everyone in and around state government (except his most fervent supporters, the “Chipsters”) seem intent on taking him down. 

Or maybe they, like the rest of us, are just tired of seeing public officials wearing clown shoes.


Rob Tornoe is a political cartoonist and WHYY contributor. Follow Rob on Twitter @RobTornoe

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